Seen in almost all backyards, schools, daycare centers, local parks, community recreation centers are various types of playgrounds and playground equipment that enable and encourage children to develop their creative and collaborative skills. It’s a place where kids can run, jump, climb, slide, and play with peers.

However, poor construction with damaged or poorly maintained pieces of equipment is an invitation to accidents waiting to happen to children.  Truth of the matter is, no amount of adult supervision can prevent such accidents. Playgrounds can help children be active and energetic but can turn into a fearful place even with the smallest incident.

Adults and caregivers need confidence that children stay safe in the playground. Most playground accidents are caused when children fall off from the equipment, get caught in loose parts or get cut by equipment that isn’t properly maintained. Playground equipment must meet certain standards, like the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards for play equipment in Canada. This may not ensure 100% accident-proof but it certainly puts the onus on authorities to make playgrounds and parks less of a risk for its patrons.  

How to Prevent It

Parents, caregivers, child-care providers, and teachers should actively supervise children on playgrounds at all times. Regulations mandating the playground’s designs (e.g. installation of protective surface materials) will help make these environments safer for children and minimize injuries. 15 states have already enacted legislation mandating the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission safety guidelines and warnings on playground surfaces and age-appropriate equipment are strictly enforced. Consistent inspections and maintenance of playground equipment are essential for keeping kids safe.

What to look for in a playground

● Make sure that the specifications are appropriate for your child’s age and stage of development.

● Make sure your child is able to grab and climb equipment on his own.

Look for appropriate surfaces:

● Appropriate playground surfaces are sand, wood chips, and synthetic materials—such as shredded rubber—that are soft in nature. These materials will help neutralize a child’s fall and decrease the impact of the injury.

● The fill must be deep and loose. In the case of preschool equipment, the fill should be at least 15 cm (6 inches) deep. The fill should be at least 30 cm (12 inches) deep for full-sized equipment and higher age groups.

● Grass, dirt, asphalt, or concrete are unsuitable for playground equipment.

● Ensure that the equipment has strong handrails and barriers to help prevent falls.

● Equipment should be strongly anchored in the ground.

● Check thoroughly for garbage, glass or broken glass pieces, or animal feces on or around the equipment.

● Swing seats should be built of a soft material like plastic and not wood or metal.

Ensure the following steps before your child uses a playground

● Check your kids’ clothing. Make sure there are no drawstrings or other cords, which can get trapped in any of the equipment.

● Use a neck warmer instead of a scarf or mitten clips instead of cords during the cold months.

● Check out bicycle helmets. Your child’s head could get caught in narrow spaces if the helmet is too big to pull back through.

● Keep away the skipping ropes while using playground equipment.

● Ensure signs indicating the equipment meets essential standards and the recommended age range for children using the equipment.

Be a part in playground safety

Community members should make sure that their local and public playgrounds meet essential standards. 

You can:

● Have a certified expert inspect the playground to analyze the dangers and prioritize any changes that should be made.

● Make sure the improvements are made in order to ensure safety in the playground is safe. 

● Keep the playground equipment, its surface, and grounds clean at all times. 

● Report injuries immediately to the playground operators, such as the municipality, school, or child care facility.

If you are concerned about the safety of your local playground, contact the people who are responsible for operating them. Some communities have non-traditional outdoor play spaces instead of playground equipment like community flower or vegetable gardens, and sand or water play areas. These play areas are less expensive to develop and can be designed to challenge children’s development without the risk of falls or getting trapped or hurt.

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